High Rise (15)

High Rise (15)

Directed by Ben Wheatley
Picturehouse, Liverpool
From 11th March 2016

Reviewed by Tom Bottle

Director Ben Wheatley’s take on J.G Ballard’s novel, where class war breaks out in a 1970’s high rise brutalist block, has everything in depravity, sex and violence but the feeling that any of it is real.

I watched in detached indifference – in real life one of our greatest crimes – and instead of anxiety for a deviant urban future I emerged with the creeping fear of lifts I have been developing all but cured.

Tom Hiddleston is Laing, the good doctor, landing in an urban dream, where all needs are catered for until the power fails, the lights go out, and worse, the bins are not emptied. The bins! That’s enough when the pressure’s on for the old thin veneer to crack and explode.

Is it the building that causes civil breakdown? Or the set up of rich at the top and lesser mortals below?

The social cleansing going on now in London and the creation of ‘Poor Doors’ in luxury flats gives us a clue. No lump of concrete ever called me scum!

Modernism in architecture left the door wide open for visionaries who took a chance on their creations working. The mad architect here is Royal (Jeremy Irons) who incredibly chooses to live in the experiment he has made.

Being on top, of course, his reality is a rooftop orchard with a trophy wife riding a white horse on green, green grass. The psychological effects of buildings, architecture as a public good, and the accountability of architects are a bit different up here.

Ballard’s books I’ve heard are big on the mayhem of social breakdown, full of interesting but grim ideas of what’s to come.

High Rise, the film, has the mayhem but without ever connecting with the ideas. With no plot to fall back on you might start wondering why you are there.

Man of the moment Hiddleston avoids the fate of fellow tenants, James Purefoy, Luke Evans, and Sienna Miller whose twisted characters have that cheap feel of telly performers pushed on to the big screen.

Saying that, dystopia’s trade on feelings of disconnection. Maybe this was Wheatley’s attempt at it. Or maybe I haven’t suffered enough urban isolation to ‘get it’.

Hackney in the rain a couple of months back I suffered. Rows of bleak, desperate shops, not trading but hanging on, and on a corner a 1960’s concrete structure nailed from top to toe in the roughest chipboard ever seen. In the gaps I made out it was a college.

A spectacular beacon of hopelessness representing the area and yet 50 yards up a clean lines, chrome and glass cafe packed with hipsters, their ipads and their sunny futures.

No one in their right mind would travel to mesh with their latte round here, so….. they must live close by.

It’s amazing what urban hell people will willingly put up with. More of an eye opener than anything in High Rise, the flick.

NERVE supports workers struggling for a living wage.

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